After musician Santosh Narayanan was credited for composing the immensely popular ‘Enjoy Enjaami’, rapper Arivu took to social media to say that it was he who wrote, composed and performed the song. At the inaugural ceremony of the 44th Chess Olympiad, singers Dhee and Kidakuzhi Mariyammal performed the song, and Santosh Narayanan was credited as the music composer. Many social media users had expressed their disappointment that Arivu was not credited or even mentioned during the event.
In a long Instagram post with a picture from the music video of the song, Arivu wrote that he spent over six months to compose, to write and then to perform the track. He also clarified claims by Santosh Narayanan and Maajja that both Dhee and Arivu had contributed equally to the project, saying that he did not receive any kind of external support. Arivu wrote that the songs speaks about his background and his heritage, and though the producing the song was a team effort, this does not give the label or other collaborators the right to invisibilize the struggles of his ancestors which he addresses in the track.
“No doubt it (the song) calls everyone together. But it doesn’t mean that’s not the history of Valliammal or the landless Tea plantation slave ancestors of mine. Every song of mine will be having the scarmark of this generational oppression. Like this Just One..There are 10000 songs of folk in this land. The songs that carry the breath of ancestors ,their pain ,their life, love, their resistance and all about their existence. It’s all speaking to you in beautiful songs. Because we are a generation of blood and sweat turned into melodies of liberating arts. We carry the legacy through songs,” Arivu wrote in his Instagram post on Monday.
“Anyone can snatch away your treasure when You’re alseep. Never when you are awake. Jaibhim. Truth will always win in the end.#enjoyenjaami #appropriationart,” Arivu wrote.
Featuring Arivu and Dhee, ‘Enjoy Enjaami’ was backed by music composer Santhosh Narayanan (who is also the stepfather of singer Dhee) and AR Rahman’s music label Maajja, which promotes independent music. The song was released on March 5 last year. Under the description of the original music video released by Maajja on YouTube, Dhee has been named as the principal artiste, while Arivu’s name has been added as the collaborator. “Dhee ft. Arivu - Enjoy Enjaami (Prod. Santhosh Narayanan),” reads the song’s title on YouTube. The description does not carry the name of the composer either.
Arivu’s exclusion as the creator of the song has also been addressed in the past multiple times, but this is the first time he has spoken about it.
Rolling Stone India had in August last year carried a front cover and cover story about ‘Enjoy Enjaami’ in August last year, but did not include Arivu. This had led to a public outcry, with many calling out Rolling Stone India, as well as the artistes involved, for side lining Arivu and the Dalit-Bahujan people that he paid tribute to through the song ‘Enjoy Enjaami’. ‘Enjoy Enjaami’, which is fused with Oppari (lament song sung during a mourning) is a celebration of the ancestors who toiled in the forests and led to human civilization. The lyricist speaks about his grandmother Valliammal and narrates how she was forced to migrate to Sri Lanka as indentured labour on tea plantations, followed by her return to India to be faced with landlessness.
However, the EDM version of Enjoy Enjaami which was released by singer Dhee and DJ Snake on Spotify — which was also streamed on the Times Square Billboard last year — had excluded Arivu from the video. This was also condemned by many, who argued that Arivu’s erasure from his own tracks was 'appropriative'. Frequent collaborators and Arivu’s colleagues from the industry, including director Pa Ranjith took to social media to question why Arivu was not given due credit.
“@TherukuralArivu, the lyricist of #Neeyaoli and singer as well as lyricist of #enjoyenjami has once again been invisiblised. @RollingStoneIN and @joinmaajja is it so difficult to understand that the lyrics of both songs challenges this erasure of public acknowledgement?” Pa Ranjith had tweeted last year. Arivu was subsequently featured on the digital cover of Rolling Stone India. Arivu, who chose not to respond to the controversy then, has broken his silence with the recent social media post.